What is MTARP?
The Minnesota / Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) is a longitudinal research study that focuses on the consequences of variations in openness in adoption arrangements for all members of the adoptive kinship network: birthmothers, adoptive parents, and adopted children, and for the relationships within these family systems. The project was begun in the mid-1980s by Harold Grotevant, Ph.D., the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Ruth G. McRoy, Ph.D., Research Professor and the Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professor Emerita at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.
Since the mid-1970's, adoption practices in the U.S. have changed dramatically, and the confidentiality maintained in the past is no longer the norm. The trend is toward "openness" in adoption, in which contact occurs between the adoptive family and birthparent(s), either directly or mediated (e.g., through an adoption agency). Some adoption professionals argue that fully open adoption should be standard practice, that the secrecy of confidential adoptions has been harmful to all parties involved. Others argue that openness is harmful and experimental. Their view is that confidential adoption worked well, so why change it? Although such professionals hold strong feelings about adoption, almost no research on this topic has been available to guide adoption policy and to answer basic questions about the dynamics of adoptive kinship networks.
Why is MTARP Important?
The study is significant for a number of reasons. It is:
National in scope
Has followed participants for over 20 years
Involves a sample (720 individuals) much larger than other adoption studies that employ interview methods and home visits
Includes the full range of adoptive openness, including cases in which contact has stopped, some in which contact
continues, and others in which it has increased or decreased over time, allowing for tracking of trajectories of openness over time
Includes data from adopted persons, adoptive parents, and birth parents
Includes data about adoption agency practices and policies to contextualize the work
Has significant implications for legal and policy issues concerning adoption in the United States today.
Progress toward such understanding will contribute to better theories about human development within the family, better methodology for studying complex living arrangements, a better knowledge base for prevention and intervention programs, and guidance for the establishment of policies that address the "best interests of the child" in cases of adoption.
Harold D. Grotevant, Ph.D.
Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology
Department of Psychology
619 Tobin Hall
135 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003
Ruth G. McRoy, Ph.D.
Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Professor
Graduate School of Social Work
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467